Thurman’s Cosmic Religious Experience & Revelations of Community

Thurman’s theology of community and eco-community was born of  the mystical experiences he had in nature, as he testifies: 

“Moonrise over the Water, Santa Cruz.” Photo by Jeff Nissen on Unsplash

As a child, the boundaries of my life spilled over into the mystery of the ocean and the wonder of the dark nights and the wooing of the wind until the breath of Nature and my own breath seemed to be one—it was resonant to the tonality of God.  This was a part of my cosmic religious experience as I grew up.

What rich and powerful and poetic language by which he speaks of the sacredness of creation and therefore of all our relations!

He goes on to speak to his own experience as a wonder-filled child, as well as his peoples’ experience from an African earth-based reverence for the cosmos in this self-disclosure. 

“Open Geode.” Photo by SOLIMAN HOSSAIN on Unsplash

There is magic all around us—in the rocks, the trees, and the minds of men…and he who strikes the rock aright may find them where he will…There can be no thing that does not have within it the signature of God, the Creator of life, the living substance out of which all particular manifestations arise.

This is cosmic Christ theology, the “pattern that connects everything in the heavens and on the earth.”  Thurman sees the cosmos as a community and celebrates humanity’s power to see that holy connection.

In an early lecture, cosmologist Brian Swimme speaks about Planet Earth as a single, unified organism. Uploaded to YouTube by James Long.

In Thurman’s worldview, life itself is a “whole-making” process–humans and all of  nature are striving for harmony and community.  “There is a spirit abroad in life, of which the Judeo-Christian ethic is but one expression. It is a spirit that makes for wholeness and for community.”  In his autobiography, he insists that

Life is against all dualism. Life is One. Therefore, a way of life that is worth living must be a way worthy of life itself. Nothing less than that can abide. Always, against all that fragments and shatters and against all things that separate and divide within and without, life labors to meld together into a single harmony.

What if the whole universe is conscious? Rupert Sheldrake explains how panpsychism is the best explanation we have today for how we can understand consciousness. Uploaded to YouTube by The Institute of Art and Ideas.

Life urges community upon us.

 Thurman integrated African American spirituality with the new sense of ecology and cosmology arising in the culture in the 1970s.  Responding to the emerging cosmology of the 1970’s, he wrote,

What confronts us at once is the unbelievable immensity of the universe in time and space. Modern studies of the universe deal with cosmic processes rather than with a fixed and therefore limited universe… Life… seems to be realizing itself in the all-inclusive immensity of the universe.

Council house of Dogon elders, Mali, West Africa. The pillars are carved with images from Dogon mythology.

Interconnectivity and oneness are everywhere—that is why we call our home a universe: “Recent investigations confirm the notion that the universe is a universe. There seems to be a vast, almost incomprehensible interrelatedness tying all together.”

For Thurman, as for indigenous and premodern thinkers in general, the cosmos, earth, life, and humanity form a community. “Since we are not only living in the universe but the universe is living in us, it follows, then, that man is an organic part of the universe.” 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, “Howard Thurman: A Creation-Centered Mystic from the African American Tradition,” in Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, pp. 145-153.

See Howard Thurman, Search For Common Ground, pp. 30-32.

Banner Image: “Communion”. Photo by Muhammed Fayiz on Unsplash

Have you also experienced the “wooing of the night” that brings you into the “tonality of God”?  And the “signature of God” that is found in every being?  What follows from that awareness of unity and community?  How do we translate that into education, politics, economics, religion, celebration?

Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation


Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations





Receive our daily meditations

3 thoughts on “Thurman’s Cosmic Religious Experience & Revelations of Community”

  1. Avatar

    Wow, the young Brian Swimme is such a joy to listen to! And Sheldrake’s description of consciousness is profound. Thank you for synthesizing these with Thurman’s worldview, Matthew!

  2. Avatar

    Ditto to the above comment! It only made my own sense of oneness deepen! Please, which book was Matthew reading from at the end?

  3. Avatar
    Anne Marie Raftery

    Yes, more and more, I am experiencing, sensing the awe, the
    presence of the Divine as I spend extended periods of time with nature!

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: